Early life and education
Brin was born on August 21, 1973, in Moscow in the Soviet Union, to Jewish parents, Mikhail and Eugenia Brin, both graduates of Moscow State University (MSU). His father is a retired mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, and his mother a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The Brin family lived in a three-room apartment in central Moscow, which they also shared with Sergey’s paternal grandmother. In 1977, after his father returned from a mathematics conference in Warsaw, Poland, Mikhail Brin announced that it was time for the family to emigrate. They formally applied for their exit visa in September 1978, and as a result, his father was “promptly fired”. For related reasons, his mother had to leave her job. For the next eight months, without any steady income, they were forced to take on temporary jobs as they waited, afraid their request would be denied as it was for many refuseniks. In May 1979, they were granted their official exit visas and were allowed to leave the country.
The Brin family lived in Vienna and Paris while Mikhail Brin secured a teaching position at the University of Maryland with help from Anatole Katok. During this time, the Brin family received support and assistance from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. They arrived in the United States on October 25, 1979.
Brin attended elementary school at Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Maryland, but he received further education at home; his father, a professor in the department of mathematics at the University of Maryland, encouraged him to learn mathematics and his family helped him retain his Russian-language skills. He attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, Maryland. In September 1990, Brin enrolled in the University of Maryland, where he received his Bachelor of Science from the Department of Computer Science in 1993 with honors in computer science and mathematics at the age of 19.
Brin began his graduate study in computer science at Stanford University on a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. In 1993, he interned at Wolfram Research, the developers of Mathematica. As of 2008, he was on leave from his PhD studies at Stanford.
Search engine development
During an orientation for new students at Stanford, he met Larry Page. They seemed to disagree on most subjects, but after spending time together they “became intellectual soul-mates and close friends.” Brin’s focus was on developing data mining systems while Page’s was in extending “the concept of inferring the importance of a research paper from its citations in other papers”. Together, the pair authored a paper titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine”.
To convert the backlink data gathered by BackRub’s web crawler into a measure of importance for a given web page, Brin and Page developed the PageRank algorithm, and realized that it could be used to build a search engine far superior to existing ones. The new algorithm relied on a new kind of technology that analyzed the relevance of the backlinks that connected one Web page to another, and allowed the number of links and their rank, to determine the rank of the page.
BackRub already exhibited the rudimentary functions and characteristics of a search engine: a query input was entered and it provided a list of backlinks ranked by importance. Page recalled: “We realized that we had a querying tool. It gave you a good overall ranking of pages and ordering of follow-up pages.” Page said that in mid-1998 they finally realized the further potential of their project: “Pretty soon, we had 10,000 searches a day. And we figured, maybe this is really real.”
Some compared Page and Brin’s vision to the impact of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of modern printing:
In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg introduced Europe to the mechanical printing press, printing Bibles for mass consumption. The technology allowed for books and manuscripts—originally replicated by hand—to be printed at a much faster rate, thus spreading knowledge and helping to usher in the European Renaissance … Google has done a similar job.
The comparison was also noted by the authors of The Google Story: “Not since Gutenberg … has any new invention empowered individuals, and transformed access to information, as profoundly as Google.” Also, not long after the two “cooked up their new engine for web searches, they began thinking about information that was at the time beyond the web,” such as digitizing books and expanding health information.
Awards and accolades
In 2002, Brin, along with Larry Page, was named the MIT Technology Review TR100, as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
In 2003, both Brin and Page received an honorary MBA from IE Business School “for embodying the entrepreneurial spirit and lending momentum to the creation of new businesses…”.
In 2004, they received the Marconi Foundation Prize, the “Highest Award in Engineering”, and were elected Fellows of the Marconi Foundation at Columbia University. “In announcing their selection, John Jay Iselin, the Foundation’s president, congratulated the two men for their invention that has fundamentally changed the way information is retrieved today.”
In 2003, Brin and Page were both Award Recipients and National Finalists for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award
In 2004, Brin received the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award with Larry Page at a ceremony in Chicago, Illinois.
In November 2009, Forbes decided Brin and Page were the fifth most powerful people in the world.
Earlier that same year, in February, Brin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, which is “among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer … [and] honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice…”. He was selected specifically, “for leadership in development of rapid indexing and retrieval of relevant information from the World Wide Web”.
In their “Profiles” of Fellows, the National Science Foundation included a number of earlier awards:
he was a featured speaker at the World Economic Forum and the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference. … PC Magazine has praised Google in the Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines (1998) and awarded Google the Technical Excellence Award, for Innovation in Web Application Development in 1999. In 2000, Google earned a Webby Award, a People’s Voice Award for technical achievement, and in 2001, was awarded Outstanding Search Service, Best Image Search Engine, Best Design, Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine, and Best Search Feature at the Search Engine Watch Awards.As of October 2018, Brin is the 13th-richest person in the world according to Forbes, with an estimated net worth of US$50.5 billion.